Stonewall Jackson And The American Civil War
G. F. R. Henderson

Part 5 out of 19

effectively in his own person the duties of Head of the Government
and of Commander-in-Chief, he would have handed over the management
of his huge armies, and the direction of all military movements, to
the most capable soldier the Confederacy could produce. Capable
soldiers were not wanting; and had the control of military operations
been frankly committed to a trained strategist, and the military
resources of the Southern States been placed unreservedly at the
disposal of either Lee or Johnston, combined operations would have
taken the place of disjointed enterprises, and the full strength of
the country have been concentrated at the decisive point. It can
hardly, however, be imputed as a fault to Mr. Davis that he did not
anticipate a system which achieved such astonishing success in
Prussia's campaigns of '66 and '70. It was not through vanity alone
that he retained in his own hands the supreme control of military
affairs. The Confederate system of government was but an imitation of
that which existed in the United States; and in Washington, as in
Richmond, the President was not only Commander-in-Chief in name, but
the arbiter on all questions of strategy and organisation; while, to
go still further back, the English Cabinet had exercised the same
power since Parliament became supreme. The American people may be
forgiven for their failure to recognise the deplorable results of the
system they had inherited from the mother-country. The English people
had been equally blind, and in their case there was no excuse. The
mismanagement of the national resources in the war with France was
condoned by the victories of Wellington. The vicious conceptions of
the Government, responsible for so many useless enterprises, for
waste of life, of treasure, of opportunity, were lost in the blaze of
triumph in which the struggle ended. Forty years later it had been
forgotten that the Cabinet of 1815 had done its best to lose the
battle of Waterloo; the lessons of the great war were disregarded,
and the Cabinet of 1853 to 1854 was allowed to work its will on the
army of the Crimea.

It is a significant fact that, during the War of Secession, for the
three years the control of the armies of the North remained in the
hands of the Cabinet the balance of success lay with the
Confederates. But in March 1864 Grant was appointed
Commander-in-Chief; Lincoln abdicated his military functions in his
favour, and the Secretary of War had nothing more to do than to
comply with his requisitions. Then, for the first time, the enormous
armies of the Union were manoeuvred in harmonious combination, and
the superior force was exerted to its full effect. Nor is it less
significant that during the most critical period of the 1862
campaign, the most glorious to the Confederacy, Lee was
Commander-in-Chief of the Southern armies. But when Lee left Richmond
for the Northern border, Davis once more assumed supreme control,
retaining it until it was too late to stave off ruin.

Yet the Southern soldiers had never to complain of such constant
interference on the part of the Cabinet as had the Northern; and to
Jackson it was due that each Confederate general, with few
exceptions, was henceforward left unhampered in his own theatre of
operations. His threat of resignation at least effected this, and,
although the President still managed or mismanaged the grand
operations, the Secretary of War was muzzled.

It might be objected that in this instance Jackson showed little
respect for the discipline he so rigidly enforced, and that in the
critical situation of the Confederacy his action was a breach of duty
which was almost disloyalty. Without doubt his resignation would have
seriously embarrassed the Government. To some degree at least the
confidence of both the people and the army in the Administration
would have become impaired. But Jackson was fighting for a principle
which was of even more importance than subordination. Foreseeing as
he did the certain results of civilian meddling, submission to the
Secretary's orders would have been no virtue. His presence with the
army would hardly have counterbalanced the untrammelled exercise of
Mr. Benjamin's military sagacity, and the inevitable decay of
discipline. It was not the course of a weak man, an apathetic man, or
a selfish man. We may imagine Jackson eating his heart out at
Lexington, while the war was raging on the frontier, and the
Stonewall Brigade was fighting manfully under another leader against
the hosts of the invader. The independence of his country was the
most intense of all his earthly desires; and to leave the forefront
of the fight before that desire had been achieved would have been
more to him than most. He would have sacrificed far more in resigning
than in remaining; and there was always the possibility that a
brilliant success and the rapid termination of the war would place
Mr. Benjamin apparently in the right. How would Jackson look then?
What would be the reputation of the man who had quitted the army, on
what would have been considered a mere point of etiquette, in the
very heat of the campaign? No ordinary man would have faced the
alternative, and have risked his reputation in order to teach the
rulers of his country a lesson which might never reach them. It must
be remembered, too, that Jackson had not yet proved himself
indispensable. He had done good work at Manassas, but so had others.
His name was scarcely known beyond the confines of his own State, and
Virginia had several officers of higher reputation. His immediate
superiors knew his value, but the Confederate authorities, as their
action proved, placed little dependence on his judgment, and in all
probability set no special store upon his services. There was
undoubtedly every chance, had not Governor Letcher intervened, that
his resignation would have been accepted. His letter then to the
Secretary of War was no mere threat, the outcome of injured vanity,
but the earnest and deliberate protest of a man who was ready to
sacrifice even his own good name to benefit his country.

The negotiations which followed his application to resign occupied
some time. He remained at Winchester, and the pleasant home where he
and his wife had found such kindly welcome was the scene of much
discussion. Governor Letcher was not alone in his endeavours to alter
his decision. Many were the letters that poured in. From every class
of Virginians, from public men and private, came the same appeal. But
until he was convinced that Virginia would suffer by his action,
Jackson was deaf to argument. He had not yet realised the measure of
confidence which he had won. To those who sought to move him by
saying that his country could not spare his services, or by speaking
of his hold upon the troops, he replied that they greatly
overestimated his capacity for usefulness, and that his place would
readily be filled by a better man. That many of his friends were
deeply incensed with the Secretary of War was only natural, and his
conduct was bitterly denounced. But Jackson not only forbore to
criticise, but in his presence all criticism was forbidden. There can
be no doubt that he was deeply wounded. He could be angry when he
chose, and his anger was none the less fierce because it was
habitually controlled. He never forgave Davis for his want of wisdom
after Manassas; and indeed, in future campaigns, the President's
action was sufficient to exasperate the most patriotic of his
generals. But during this time of trouble not a word escaped Jackson
which showed those nearest him that his equanimity was disturbed.
Anticipating that he would be ordered to the Military Institute, he
was even delighted, says his wife, at the prospect of returning home.
The reason of his calmness is not far to seek. He had come to the
determination that it was his duty to resign, not, we may be certain,
without prayer and self-communing, and when Jackson saw what his duty
was, all other considerations were soon dismissed. He was content to
leave the future in higher hands. It had been so with him when the
question of secession was first broached. "It was soon after the
election of 1860," wrote one of his clerical friends, "when the
country was beginning to heave in the agony of dissolution. We had
just risen from morning prayers in his own house, where at that time
I was a guest. Filled with gloom, I was lamenting in strong language
the condition and prospect of our beloved country. 'Why,' said he,
'should Christians be disturbed about the dissolution of the Union?
It can only come by God's permission, and will only be permitted if
for His people's good. I cannot see why we should be distressed about
such things, whatever be their consequence.'"

For the next month the Stonewall Brigade and its commander enjoyed a
well-earned rest. The Federals, on Loring's withdrawal, contented
themselves with holding Romney and Moorefield, and on Johnston's
recommendation Loring and part of his troops were transferred
elsewhere. The enemy showed no intention of advancing. The season was
against them. The winter was abnormally wet; the Potomac was higher
than it had been for twenty years, and the Virginia roads had
disappeared in mud. In order to encourage re-enlistment amongst the
men, furloughs were liberally granted by the authorities at Richmond,
and for a short season the din of arms was unheard on the Shenandoah.

This peaceful time was one of unalloyed happiness to Jackson. The
country round Winchester--the gently rolling ridges, surmounted by
groves of forest trees, the great North Mountains to the westward,
rising sharply from the Valley, the cosy villages and comfortable
farms, and, in the clear blue distance to the south, the towering
peaks of the Massanuttons--is a picture not easily forgotten. And the
little town, quiet and old-fashioned, with its ample gardens and
red-brick pavements, is not unworthy of its surroundings. Up a narrow
street, shaded by silver maples, stood the manse, not far from the
headquarter offices; and here when his daily work was done Jackson
found the happiness of a home, brightened by the winning ways and
attractive presence of his wife. With his host he had much in common.
They were members of the same church, and neither yielded to the
other in his high standard of morality. The great bookcases of the
manse were well stocked with appropriate literature, and the cultured
intellect of Dr. Graham met more than half-way the somewhat abstruse
problems with which Jackson's powerful brain delighted to wrestle.

But Jackson and his host, even had they been so inclined, were not
permitted to devote their whole leisure to theological discussion.
Children's laughter broke in upon their arguments. The young staff
officers, with the bright eyes of the Winchester ladies as a lure,
found a welcome by that hospitable hearth, and the war was not so
absorbing a topic as to drive gaiety afield.

The sedate manse was like to lose its character. There were times
when the house overflowed with music and with merriment, and sounds
at which a Scotch elder would have shuddered were heard far out in
the street. And the fun and frolic were not confined to the more
youthful members of the household. The Stonewall Brigade would hardly
have been surprised had they seen their general surrounded by
ponderous volumes, gravely investigating the teaching of departed
commentators, or joining with quiet fervour in the family devotions.
But had they seen him running down the stairs with an urchin on his
shoulders, laughing like a schoolboy, they would have refused to
credit the evidence of their senses.

So the months wore on. "We spent," says Mrs. Jackson, "as happy a
winter as ever falls to the lot of mortals upon earth." But the
brigade was not forgotten, nor the enemy. Every day the Virginia
regiments improved in drill and discipline. The scouts were busy on
the border, and not a movement of the Federal forces was unobserved.
A vigilant watch was indeed necessary. The snows had melted and the
roads were slowly drying. The Army of the Potomac, McClellan's great
host, numbering over 200,000 men, encamped around Washington, hardly
more than a day's march distant from Centreville, threatened to
overwhelm the 82,000 Confederates who held the intrenchments at
Centreville and Manassas Junction. General Lander was dead, but
Shields, a veteran of the Mexican campaign, had succeeded him, and
the force at both Romney and Frederick had been increased. In the
West things were going badly for the new Republic. The Union troops
had overrun Kentucky, Missouri, and the greater part of Tennessee. A
Confederate army had been defeated; Confederate forts captured; and
"the amphibious power" of the North had already been effectively
exerted. Various towns on the Atlantic seaboard had been occupied.
Not one of the European Powers had evinced a decided intention of
espousing the Confederate cause, and the blockade still exercised its
relentless pressure.

It was not, however, until the end of February that the great host
beyond the Potomac showed symptoms of approaching movement. But it
had long been evident that both Winchester and Centreville must soon
be abandoned. Johnston was as powerless before McClellan as Jackson
before Banks. Even if by bringing fortification to their aid they
could hold their ground against the direct attack of far superior
numbers, they could not prevent their intrenchments being turned.
McClellan had at his disposal the naval resources of the North. It
would be no difficult task to transfer his army by the broad reaches
of the Potomac and the Chesapeake to some point on the Virginia
coast, and to intervene between Centreville and Richmond. At the same
time the army of Western Virginia, which was now under command of
General Fremont, might threaten Jackson in rear by moving on Staunton
from Beverley and the Great Kanawha, while Banks assailed him in
front.* (* Fortunately for the Confederates this army had been
reduced to 18,000 men, and the want of transport, together with the
condition of the mountain roads, kept it stationary until the weather

Johnston was already preparing to retreat. Jackson, reluctant to
abandon a single acre of his beloved Valley to the enemy, was
nevertheless constrained to face the possibilities of such a course.
His wife was sent back to her father's home in the same train that
conveyed his sick to Staunton; baggage and stores were removed to
Mount Jackson, half-way up the Shenandoah Valley, and his little
army, which had now been increased to three brigades, or 4600 men all
told, was ordered to break up its camps. 38,000 Federals had
gradually assembled between Frederick and Romney. Banks, who
commanded the whole force, was preparing to advance, and his outposts
were already established on the south bank of the Potomac.

But when the Confederate column filed through the streets of
Winchester, it moved not south but north.

Such was Jackson's idea of a retreat. To march towards the enemy, not
away from him; to watch his every movement; to impose upon him with a
bold front; to delay him to the utmost; and to take advantage of
every opportunity that might offer for offensive action.

Shortly before their departure the troops received a reminder that
their leader brooked no trifling with orders. Intoxicating liquors
were forbidden in the Confederate lines. But the regulation was
systematically evaded, and the friends of the soldiers smuggled in
supplies. When this breach of discipline was discovered, Jackson put
a stop to the traffic by an order which put the punishment on the
right shoulders. "Every waggon that came into camp was to be
searched, and if any liquor were found it was to be spilled out, and
the waggon horses turned over to the quartermaster for the public
service." Nevertheless, when they left Winchester, so Jackson wrote
to his wife, the troops were in excellent spirits, and their somewhat
hypochondriacal general had never for years enjoyed more perfect
health--a blessing for which he had more reason to be thankful than
the Federals.

(MAP. THE VALLEY. Showing: West: Monterey, North: Hancock, South:
Charlottesville and East: Manassas Junction.)



It is well worth noticing that the interference of both the Union and
Confederate Cabinets was not confined to the movements and location
of the troops. The organisation of the armies was very largely the
work of the civilian authorities, and the advice of the soldiers was
very generally disregarded. The results, it need hardly be said, were
deplorable. The Northern wiseacres considered cavalry an encumbrance
and a staff a mere ornamental appendage. McClellan, in consequence,
was always in difficulties for the want of mounted regiments; and
while many regular officers were retained in the command of batteries
and companies, the important duties of the staff had sometimes to be
assigned to volunteers. The men too, at first, were asked to serve
for three months only; that is, they were permitted to take their
discharge directly they had learned the rudiments of their work.
Again, instead of the ranks of the old regiments being filled up as
casualties occurred, the armies, despite McClellan's protests, were
recruited by raw regiments, commanded by untrained officers. Mr.
Davis, knowing something of war, certainly showed more wisdom. The
organisation of the army of Northern Virginia was left, in great
measure, to General Lee; so from the very first the Southerners had
sufficient cavalry and as good a staff as could be got together. The
soldiers, however, were only enlisted at first for twelve months; yet
"Lee," says Lord Wolseley, "pleaded in favour of the engagement being
for the duration of the war, but he pleaded in vain;" and it was not
for many months that the politicians could be induced to cancel the
regulation under which the men elected their officers. The President,
too, while the markets of Europe were still open, neglected to lay in
a store of munitions of war: it was not till May that an order was
sent across the seas, and then only for 10,000 muskets! The
commissariat department, moreover, was responsible to the President
and not to the commander of the armies; this, perhaps, was the worst
fault of all. It would seem impossible that such mistakes, in an
intelligent community, should be permitted to recur. Yet, in face of
the fact that only when the commanders have been given a free hand,
as was Marlborough in the Low Countries, or Wellington in the
Peninsula, has the English army been thoroughly efficient, the
opinion is not uncommon in England that members of Parliament and
journalists are far more capable of organising an army than even the
most experienced soldier.

Since the above was written the war with Spain has given further
proof of how readily even the most intelligent of nations can forget
the lessons of the past.


1862. February 27.

By the end of February a pontoon bridge had been thrown across the
Potomac at Harper's Ferry, and Banks had crossed to the Virginia
shore. An army of 38,000 men, including 2000 cavalry, and accompanied
by 80 pieces of artillery, threatened Winchester.

President Lincoln was anxious that the town should be occupied. Banks
believed that the opportunity was favourable. "The roads to
Winchester," he wrote, "are turnpikes and in tolerable condition. The
enemy is weak, demoralised, and depressed."

But McClellan, who held command of all the Federal forces, had no
mind to expose even a detachment to defeat. The main Confederate army
at Centreville could, at any moment, dispatch reinforcements by
railway to the Valley, reversing the strategic movement which had won
Bull Run; while the Army of the Potomac, held fast by the mud, could
do nothing to prevent it. Banks was therefore ordered to occupy the
line Charlestown to Martinsburg, some two-and-twenty miles from
Winchester, to cover the reconstruction of the Baltimore and Ohio
Railroad, and to accumulate supplies preparatory to a further
advance. The troops, however, did not approve such cautious strategy.
"Their appetite for work," according to their commander, "was very
sharp." Banks himself was not less eager. "If left to our own
discretion," he wrote to McClellan's chief of staff, "the general
desire will be to move early."

March 9.

On March 7 General D.H. Hill, acting under instructions, fell back
from Leesburg, and two days later Johnston, destroying the railways,
abandoned Centreville. The Confederate General-in-Chief had decided
to withdraw to near Orange Court House, trebling his distance from
Washington, and surrendering much territory, but securing, in return,
important strategical advantages. Protected by the Rapidan, a stream
unfordable in spring, he was well placed to meet a Federal advance,
and also, by a rapid march, to anticipate any force which might be
transported by water and landed close to Richmond.

Jackson was now left isolated in the Valley. The nearest Confederate
infantry were at Culpeper Court House, beyond the Blue Ridge, nearly
sixty miles south-east. In his front, within two easy marches, was an
army just seven times his strength, at Romney another detachment of
several thousand men, and a large force in the Alleghanies. He was in
no hurry, however, to abandon Winchester.

Johnston had intended that when the main army fell back towards
Richmond his detachments should follow suit. Jackson found a loophole
in his instructions which gave him full liberty of action.

"I greatly desire," he wrote to Johnston on March 8, "to hold this
place [Winchester] so far as may be consistent with your views and
plans, and am making arrangements, by constructing works, etc., to
make a stand. Though you desired me some time since to fall back in
the event of yourself and General Hill's doing so, yet in your letter
of the 5th inst. you say, "Delay the enemy as long as you can;" I
have felt justified in remaining here for the present.

"And now, General, that Hill has fallen back, can you not send him
over here? I greatly need such an officer; one who can be sent off as
occasion may offer against an exposed detachment of the enemy for the
purpose of capturing it...I believe that if you can spare Hill, and
let him move here at once, you will never have occasion to regret it.
The very idea of reinforcements coming to Winchester would, I think,
be a damper to the enemy, in addition to the fine effect that would
be produced on our own troops, already in fine spirits. But if you
cannot spare Hill, can you not send me some other troops? If we
cannot be successful in defeating the enemy should he advance, a kind
Providence may enable us to inflict a terrible wound and effect a
safe retreat in the event of having to fall back. I will keep myself
on the alert with respect to communications between us, so as to be
able to join you at the earliest possible moment, if such a movement
becomes necessary."* (* O.R. volume 5 page 1094.)

This letter is characteristic. When Jackson asked for reinforcements
the cause of the South seemed well-nigh hopeless. Her Western armies
were retiring, defeated and demoralised. Several of her Atlantic
towns had fallen to the Federal navy, assisted by strong landing
parties. The army on which she depended for the defence of Richmond,
yielding to the irresistible presence of far superior numbers, was
retreating into the interior of Virginia. There was not the faintest
sign of help from beyond the sea. The opportunity for a great
counterstroke had been suffered to escape. Her forces were too small
for aught but defensive action, and it was difficult to conceive that
she could hold her own against McClellan's magnificently appointed
host. "Events," said Davis at this time, "have cast on our arms and
hopes the gloomiest shadows." But from the Valley, the northern
outpost of the Confederate armies, where the danger was most
threatening and the means of defence the most inadequate, came not a
whisper of apprehension. The troops that held the border were but a
handful, but Jackson knew enough of war to be aware that victory does
not always side with the big battalions. Neither Johnston nor Davis
had yet recognised, as he did, the weak joint in the Federal harness.
Why should the appearance of Hill's brigade at Winchester discourage
Banks? Johnston had fallen back to the Rapidan, and there was now no
fear of the Confederates detaching troops suddenly from Manassas. Why
should the bare idea that reinforcements were coming up embarrass the

The letter itself does not indeed supply a definite answer. Jackson
was always most guarded in his correspondence; and, if he could
possibly avoid it, he never made the slightest allusion to the
information on which his plans were based. His staff officers,
however, after the campaign was over, were generally enlightened as
to the motive of his actions, and we are thus enabled to fill the
gap.* (* Letter from Major Hotchkiss to the author.) Jackson demanded
reinforcements for the one reason that a blow struck near Winchester
would cause alarm in Washington. The communications of the Federal
capital with both the North and West passed through or close to
Harper's Ferry; and the passage over the Potomac, which Banks was now
covering, was thus the most sensitive point in the invader's front.
Well aware, as indeed was every statesman and every general in
Virginia, of the state of public feeling in the North, Jackson saw
with more insight than others the effect that was likely to be
produced should the Government, the press, and the people of the
Federal States have reason to apprehend that the capital of the Union
was in danger.

If the idea of playing on the fears of his opponents by means of the
weak detachment under Jackson ever suggested itself to Johnston, he
may be forgiven if he dismissed it as chimerical. For 7600 men* (*
Jackson, 4600; Hill, 3000.) to threaten with any useful result a
capital which was defended by 250,000 seemed hardly within the bounds
of practical strategy. Johnston had nevertheless determined to turn
the situation to account. In order to protect the passages of the
Upper Potomac, McClellan had been compelled to disseminate his army.
Between his main body south of Washington and his right wing under
Banks was a gap of fifty miles, and this separation Johnston was
determined should be maintained. The President, to whom he had
referred Jackson's letter, was unable to spare the reinforcements
therein requested, and the defence of the Valley was left to the 4600
men encamped at Winchester. Jackson was permitted to use his own
judgment as to his own position, but something more was required of
him than the mere protection of a tract of territory. "He was to
endeavour to employ the invaders in the Valley without exposing
himself to the danger of defeat, by keeping so near the enemy as to
prevent his making any considerable detachment to reinforce
McClellan, but not so near that he might be compelled to fight."* (*
Johnston's Narrative.)

To carry out these instructions Jackson had at his disposal 3600
infantry, 600 cavalry, and six batteries of 27 guns. Fortunately,
they were all Virginians, with the exception of one battalion, the
First, which was composed of Irish navvies.

This force, which had now received the title of the Army of the
Valley, was organised in three brigades:--

First Brigade (Stonewall): Brigadier-General Garnett. 2nd Virginia
Regiment. 4th Virginia Regiment. 5th Virginia Regiment. 27th
Virginia Regiment. 33rd Virginia Regiment.

Second Brigade: Colonel Burks. 21st Virginia Regiment. 42nd
Virginia Regiment. 48th Virginia Regiment. 1st Regular Battalion

Third Brigade: Colonel Fulkerson. 23rd Virginia Regiment. 27th
Virginia Regiment. McLaughlin's Battery 8 guns. Waters'
Battery 4 guns. Carpenter's Battery 4 guns.
Marye's Battery 4 guns. Shumaker's Battery
4 guns. Ashby's Regiment of Cavalry. Chew's Horse-Artillery Battery 3

The infantry were by this time fairly well armed and equipped, but
the field-pieces were mostly smoothbores of small calibre. Of the
quality of the troops Bull Run had been sufficient test. Side by side
with the sons of the old Virginia houses the hunters and yeomen of
the Valley had proved their worth. Their skill as marksmen had stood
them in good stead. Men who had been used from boyhood to shoot
squirrels in the woodland found the Federal soldier a target
difficult to miss. Skirmishing and patrolling came instinctively to
those who had stalked the deer and the bear in the mountain forests;
and the simple hardy life of an agricultural community was the best
probation for the trials of a campaign. The lack of discipline and of
competent regimental officers might have placed them at a
disadvantage had they been opposed to regulars; but they were already
half-broken to the soldier's trade before they joined the ranks. They
were no strangers to camp and bivouac, to peril and adventure; their
hands could guard their heads. Quick sight and steady nerve,
unfailing vigilance and instant resolve, the very qualities which
their devotion to field-sports fostered, were those which had so
often prevailed in the war of the Revolution over the mechanical
tactics of well-disciplined battalions; and on ground with which they
were perfectly familiar the men of the Shenandoah were formidable

They were essentially rough and ready. Their appearance would hardly
have captivated a martinet. The eye that lingers lovingly on
glittering buttons and spotless belts would have turned away in
disdain from Jackson's soldiers. There was nothing bright about them
but their rifles. They were as badly dressed, and with as little
regard for uniformity, as the defenders of Torres Vedras or the Army
of Italy in 1796. Like Wellington and Napoleon, the Confederate
generals cared very little what their soldiers wore so long as they
did their duty. Least of all can one imagine Stonewall Jackson
exercising his mind as to the cut of a tunic or the polish of a
buckle. The only standing order in the English army of the Peninsula
which referred to dress forbade the wearing of the enemy's uniform.
It was the same in the Army of the Valley, although at a later period
even this order was of necessity ignored. As their forefathers of the
Revolution took post in Washington's ranks clad in hunting shirts and
leggings, so the Confederate soldiers preferred the garments spun by
their own women to those supplied them by the State. Grey, of all
shades, from light blue to butter-nut, was the universal colour. The
coatee issued in the early days of the war had already given place to
a short-waisted and single-breasted jacket. The blue kepi held out
longer. The soft felt hat which experience soon proved the most
serviceable head-dress had not yet become universal. But the long
boots had gone; and strong brogans, with broad soles and low heels,
had been found more comfortable. Overcoats were soon discarded. "The
men came to the conclusion that the trouble of carrying them on hot
days outweighed their comfort when the cold day arrived. Besides,
they found that life in the open air hardened them to such an extent
that changes in temperature were hardly felt."* (* Soldier Life in
the Army of Northern Virginia chapter 2.) Nor did the knapsack long
survive. "It was found to gall the back and shoulders and weary the
man before half the march was accomplished. It did not pay to carry
around clean clothes while waiting for the time to use them."* (*
Ibid) But the men still clung to their blankets and waterproof
sheets, worn in a roll over the left shoulder, and the indispensable
haversack carried their whole kit. Tents--except the enemy's--were
rarely seen. The Army of the Valley generally bivouacked in the
woods, the men sleeping in pairs, rolled in their blankets and rubber
sheets. The cooking arrangements were primitive. A few frying-pans
and skillets formed the culinary apparatus of a company, with a
bucket or two in addition, and the frying-pans were generally carried
with their handles stuck in the rifle-barrels! The tooth-brush was a
button-hole ornament, and if, as was sometimes the case, three days'
rations were served out at a single issue, the men usually cooked and
ate them at once, so as to avoid the labour of carrying them.

Such was Jackson's infantry, a sorry contrast indeed to the soldierly
array of the Federals, with their complete appointments and trim blue
uniforms. But fine feathers, though they may have their use, are
hardly essential to efficiency in the field; and whilst it is
absolutely true that no soldiers ever marched with less to encumber
them than the Confederates, it is no empty boast that none ever
marched faster or held out longer.

If the artillery, with a most inferior equipment, was less efficient
than the infantry, the cavalry was an invaluable auxiliary. Ashby was
the beau-ideal of a captain of light-horse. His reckless daring, both
across-country and under fire, made him the idol of the army. Nor was
his reputation confined to the Confederate ranks. "I think even our
men," says a Federal officer, "had a kind of admiration for him, as
he sat unmoved upon his horse, and let them pepper away at him as if
he enjoyed it." His one shortcoming was his ignorance of drill and
discipline. But in the spring of 1862 these deficiencies were in a
fair way of being rectified. He had already learned something of
tactics. In command of a few hundred mounted riflemen and a section
of horse-artillery he was unsurpassed; and if his men were apt to get
out of hand in battle, his personal activity ensured their strict
attention on the outposts. He thought little of riding seventy or
eighty miles within the day along his picket line, and it is said
that he first recommended himself to Jackson by visiting the Federal
camps disguised as a horse doctor. Jackson placed much dependence on
his mounted troops. Immediately he arrived in the Valley he
established his cavalry outposts far to the front. While the infantry
were reposing in their camps near Winchester, the south bank of the
Potomac, forty miles northward, was closely and incessantly
patrolled. The squadrons never lacked recruits. With the horse-loving
Virginians the cavalry was the favourite arm, and the strength of the
regiments was only limited by the difficulty of obtaining horses. To
the sons of the Valley planters and farmers Ashby's ranks offered a
most attractive career. The discipline was easy, and there was no
time for drill. But of excitement and adventure there was enough and
to spare. Scarcely a day passed without shots being exchanged at one
point or another of the picket line. There were the enemy's outposts
to be harassed, prisoners to be taken, bridges to be burnt, and
convoys to be captured. Many were the opportunities for distinction.
Jackson demanded something more from his cavalry than merely guarding
the frontier. It was not sufficient for him to receive warning that
the enemy was advancing. He wanted information from which he could
deduce what he intended doing; information of the strength of his
garrisons, of the dispositions of his camps, of every movement which
took place beyond the river. The cavalry had other and more dangerous
duties than vedette and escort. To penetrate the enemy's lines, to
approach his camps, and observe his columns--these were the tasks of
Ashby's riders, and in these they were unrivalled. Many of them were
no more than boys; but their qualifications for such a life were
undeniable. A more gallant or high-spirited body of young soldiers
never welcomed the boot and saddle. Their horses were their own,
scions of good Virginian stock, with the blood of many a well-known
sire--Eclipse, Brighteyes, and Timoleon--in their veins, and they
knew how to care for them. They were acquainted with every country
lane and woodland track. They had friends in every village, and their
names were known to every farmer. The night was no hindrance to them,
even in the region of the mountain and the forest. The hunter's paths
were as familiar to them as the turnpike roads. They knew the depth
and direction of every ford, and could predict the effect of the
weather on stream and track. More admirable material for the service
of intelligence could not possibly have been found, and Ashby's
audacity in reconnaissance found ready imitators. A generous rivalry
in deeds of daring spread through the command. Bold enterprises were
succeeded by others yet more bold, and, to use the words of a
gentleman who, although he was a veteran of four years' service, was
but nineteen years of age when Richmond fell, "We thought no more of
riding through the enemy's bivouacs than of riding round our fathers'
farms." So congenial were the duties of the cavalry, so attractive
the life and the associations, that it was no rare thing for a
Virginia gentleman to resign a commission in another arm in order to
join his friends and kinsmen as a private in Ashby's ranks. And so
before the war had been in progress for many months the fame of the
Virginia cavalry rivalled that of their Revolutionary forbears under
Light-Horse Harry, the friend of Washington and the father of Lee.

But if the raw material of Jackson's army was all that could be
desired, no less so was the material of the force opposed to him. The
regiments of Banks' army corps were recruited as a rule in the
Western States; Ohio, Indiana, and West Virginia furnished the
majority. They too were hunters and farmers, accustomed to firearms,
and skilled in woodcraft. No hardier infantry marched beneath the
Stars and Stripes; the artillery, armed with a proportion of rifled
guns, was more efficient than that of the Confederates; and in
cavalry alone were the Federals overmatched. In numbers the latter
were far superior to Ashby's squadrons; in everything else they were
immeasurably inferior. Throughout the North horsemanship was
practically an unknown art. The gentlemen of New England had not
inherited the love of their Ironside ancestors for the saddle and the
chase. Even in the forests of the West men travelled by waggon and
hunted on foot. "As cavalry," says one of Banks' brigadiers, "Ashby's
men were greatly superior to ours. In reply to some orders I had
given, my cavalry commander replied, "I can't catch them, sir; they
leap fences and walls like deer; neither our men nor our horses are
so trained.""* (* Brook Farm to Cedar Mountain, General G.H. Gordon
page 136.)

It was easy enough to fill the ranks of the Northern squadrons. Men
volunteered freely for what they deemed the more dashing branch of
the service, ignorant that its duties were far harder both to learn
and to execute than those of the other arms, and expecting, says a
Federal officer, that the regiment would be accompanied by an
itinerant livery stable! Both horses and men were recruited without
the slightest reference to their fitness for cavalry work. No man was
rejected, no matter what his size or weight, no matter whether he had
ever had anything to do with horseflesh or not, and consequently the
proportion of sick horses was enormous. Moreover, while the Southern
troopers generally carried a firearm, either rifle or shot-gun, some
of the Northern squadrons had only the sabre, and in a wooded country
the firearm was master of the situation. During the first two years
of the war, therefore, the Federal cavalry, generally speaking, were
bad riders and worse horse-masters, unable to move except upon the
roads, and as inefficient on reconnaissance as in action. For an
invading army, information, ample and accurate, is the first
requisite. Operating in a country which, almost invariably, must be
better known to the defenders, bold scouting alone will secure it
from ambush and surprise. Bold scouting was impossible with such
mounted troops as Banks possessed, and throughout the Valley campaign
the Northern general was simply groping in the dark.

But even had his cavalry been more efficient, it is doubtful whether
Banks would have profited. His appointment was political. He was an
ardent Abolitionist, but he knew nothing whatever of soldiering. He
had begun life as a hand in a cotton factory. By dint of energy and
good brains his rise had been rapid; and although, when the war broke
out, he was still a young man, he had been Governor of Massachusetts
and Speaker of the House of Representatives. What the President
expected when he gave him an army corps it is difficult to divine;
what might have been expected any soldier could have told him. To
gratify an individual, or perhaps to conciliate a political faction,
the life of many a private soldier was sacrificed. Lincoln, it is
true, was by no means solitary in the unwisdom of his selections for
command. His rival in Richmond, it is said, had a fatal penchant for
his first wife's relations; his political supporters were constantly
rewarded by appointments in the field, and the worst disasters that
befell the Confederacy were due, in great part, to the blunders of
officers promoted for any other reason than efficiency. For Mr. Davis
there was little excuse. He had been educated at West Point. He had
served in the regular army of the United States, and had been
Secretary of War at Washington. Lincoln, on the other hand, knew
nothing of war, beyond what he had learned in a border skirmish, and
very little of general history. He had not yet got rid of the common
Anglo-Saxon idea that a man who has pluck and muscle is already a
good soldier, and that the same qualities which serve in a
street-brawl are all that is necessary to make a general. Nor were
historical precedents wanting for the mistakes of the American
statesmen. In both the Peninsula and the Crimea, lives, treasure, and
prestige were as recklessly wasted as in Virginia; and staff officers
who owed their positions to social influence alone, generals, useless
and ignorant, who succeeded to responsible command by virtue of
seniority and a long purse, were the standing curse of the English
army. At the same time, it may well be questioned whether some of the
regular officers would have done better than Banks. He was no fool,
and if he had not studied the art of war, there have been
barrack-square generals who have showed as much ignorance without
one-quarter his ability. Natural commonsense has often a better
chance of success than a rusty brain, and a mind narrowed by routine.
After serving in twenty campaigns Frederick the Great's mules were
still mules. On this very theatre of war, in the forests beyond
Romney, an English general had led a detachment of English soldiers
to a defeat as crushing as it was disgraceful, and Braddock was a
veteran of many wars. Here, too, Patterson, an officer of Volunteers
who had seen much service, had allowed Johnston to slip away and join
Beauregard on Bull Run. The Northern people, in good truth, had as
yet no reason to place implicit confidence in the leading of trained
soldiers. They had yet to learn that mere length of service is no
test whatever of capacity for command, and that character fortified
by knowledge is the only charm which attracts success.

Jackson had already some acquaintance with Banks. During the Romney
expedition the latter had been posted at Frederick with 16,000 men,
and a more enterprising commander would at least have endeavoured to
thwart the Confederate movements. Banks, supine in his camps, made
neither threat nor demonstration. Throughout the winter, Ashby's
troopers had ridden unmolested along the bank of the Potomac. Lander
alone had worried the Confederate outposts, driven in their advanced
detachments, and drawn supplies from the Virginian farms. Banks had
been over-cautious and inactive, and Jackson had not failed to note
his characteristics.

March 9.

Up to March 9 the Federal general, keeping his cavalry in rear, had
pushed forward no farther than Charlestown and Bunker Hill. On that
day the news reached McClellan that the Confederates were preparing
to abandon Centreville. He at once determined to push forward his
whole army.

March 12.

Banks was instructed to move on Winchester, and on the morning of the
12th his leading division occupied the town.

Jackson had withdrawn the previous evening. Twice, on March 7 and
again on the 11th, he had offered battle.* (* Major Harman, of
Jackson's staff, writing to his brother on March 6, says: "The
general told me last night that the Yankees had 17,000 men at the two
points, Charlestown and Bunker Hill." On March 8 he writes: "3000
effective men is about the number of General Jackson's force. The
sick, those on furlough, and the deserters from the militia, reduce
him to about that number." Manuscript.) His men had remained under
arms all day in the hope that the enemy's advanced guard might be
tempted to attack. But the activity of Ashby's cavalry, and the
boldness with which Jackson maintained his position, impressed his
adversary with the conviction that the Confederate force was much
greater than it really was. It was reported in the Federal camps that
the enemy's strength was from 7000 to 11,000 men, and that the town
was fortified. Jackson's force did not amount to half that number,
and, according to a Northern officer, "one could have jumped over his
intrenchments as easily as Remus over the walls of Rome."

Jackson abandoned Winchester with extreme reluctance. Besides being
the principal town in that section of the Valley, it was
strategically important to the enemy. Good roads led in every
direction, and communication was easy with Romney and Cumberland to
the north-west, and with Washington and Manassas to the south-east.
Placed at Winchester, Banks could support, or be supported by, the
troops in West Virginia or the army south of Washington. A large and
fertile district would thus be severed from the Confederacy, and the
line of invasion across the Upper Potomac completely blocked.
Overwhelming as was the strength of the Union force, exceeding his
own by more than eight to one, great as was the caution of the
Federal leader, it was only an unlucky accident that restrained
Jackson from a resolute endeavour to at least postpone the capture of
the town. He had failed to induce the enemy's advanced guard to
attack him in position. To attack himself, in broad daylight, with
such vast disproportion of numbers, was out of the question. His
resources, however, were not exhausted. After dark on the 12th, when
his troops had left the town, he called a council, consisting of
General Garnett and the regimental commanders of the Stonewall
Brigade, and proposed a night attack on the Federal advance. When the
troops had eaten their supper and rested for some hours, they were to
march to the neighbourhood of the enemy, some four miles north of
Winchester, and make the attack before daylight. The Federal troops
were raw and inexperienced. Prestige was on the side of the
Confederates, and their morale was high. The darkness, the suddenness
and energy of the attack, the lack of drill and discipline, would all
tend to throw the enemy into confusion; and "by the vigorous use of
the bayonet, and the blessing of divine Providence," Jackson believed
that he would win a signal victory. In the meantime, whilst the
council was assembling, he went off, booted and spurred, to make a
hasty call on Dr. Graham, whose family he found oppressed with the
gloom that overspread the whole town. "He was so buoyant and hopeful
himself that their drooping spirits were revived, and after engaging
with them in family worship, he retired, departing with a cheerful
"Good evening," merely saying that he intended to dine with them the
next day as usual."

When the council met, however, it was found that someone had
blundered. The staff had been at fault. The general had ordered his
trains to be parked immediately south of Winchester, but they had
been taken by those in charge to Kernstown and Newtown, from three to
eight miles distant, and the troops had been marched back to them to
get their rations.

Jackson learned for the first time, when he met his officers, that
his brigades, instead of being on the outskirts of Winchester, were
already five or six miles away. A march of ten miles would thus be
needed to bring them into contact with the enemy. This fact and the
disapproval of the council caused him to abandon his project.

Before following his troops he once more went back to Dr. Graham's.
His cheerful demeanour during his previous visit, although he had
been as reticent as ever as to his plans, had produced a false
impression, and this he thought it his duty to correct. He explained
his plans to his friend, and as he detailed the facts which had
induced him to change them, he repeatedly expressed his reluctance to
give up Winchester without a blow. "With slow and desperate
earnestness he said, 'Let me think--can I not yet carry my plan into
execution?' As he uttered these words he grasped the hilt of his
sword, and the fierce light that blazed in his eyes revealed to his
companion a new man. The next moment he dropped his head and released
his sword, with the words, No, I must not do it; it may cost the
lives of too many brave men. I must retreat and wait for a better
time.'" He had learned a lesson. "Late in the evening," says the
medical director of the Valley army, "we withdrew from Winchester. I
rode with the general as we left the place, and as we reached a high
point overlooking the town we both turned to look at Winchester, now
left to the mercy of the Federal soldiers. I think that a man may
sometimes yield to overwhelming emotion, and I was utterly overcome
by the fact that I was leaving all that I held dear on earth; but my
emotion was arrested by one look at Jackson. His face was fairly
blazing with the fire of wrath that was burning in him, and I felt
awed before him. Presently he cried out, in a tone almost savage,
'That is the last council of war I will ever hold!'"

On leaving Winchester Jackson fell back to Strasburg, eighteen miles
south. There was no immediate pursuit.

March 18.

Banks, in accordance with his instructions, occupied the town, and
awaited further orders. These came on the 18th,* (* O.R. volume 12
part 1 page 164.) and Shields' division of 11,000 men with 27 guns
was at once pushed on to Strasburg. Jackson had already withdrawn,
hoping to draw Banks up the Valley, and was now encamped near Mount
Jackson, a strong position twenty-five miles further south, the
indefatigable Ashby still skirmishing with the enemy. The unusual
audacity which prompted the Federal advance was probably due to the
fact that the exact strength of the Confederate force had been
ascertained in Winchester. At all events, all apprehension of attack
had vanished. Jackson's 4500 men were considered a quantite
negligeable, a mere corps of observation; and not only was Shields
sent forward without support, but a large portion of Banks' corps was
ordered to another field. Its role as an independent force had
ceased. Its movements were henceforward to be subordinate to those of
the main army, and McClellan designed to bring it into closer
connection with his advance on Richmond. How his design was
frustrated, how he struggled in vain to correct the original
dissemination of his forces, how his right wing was held in a vice by
Jackson, and how his initial errors eventually ruined his campaign,
is a strategical lesson of the highest import.

From the day McClellan took command the Army of the Potomac had done
practically nothing. Throughout the winter troops had poured into
Washington at the rate of 40,000 a month. At the end of December
there were 148,000 men fit for duty. On March 20 the grand aggregate
was 240,000.* (* O.R. volume 11 part 3 page 26.) But during the
winter no important enterprise had been undertaken. The colours of
the rebels were still flaunting within sight of the forts of
Washington, and the mouth of the Potomac was securely closed by
Confederate batteries. With a mighty army at their service it is
little wonder that the North became restive and reproached their
general. It is doubtless true that the first thing needful was
organisation. To discipline and consolidate the army so as to make
success assured was unquestionably the wiser policy. The impatience
of a sovereign people, ignorant of war, is not to be lightly yielded
to. At the same time, the desire of a nation cannot be altogether
disregarded. A general who obstinately refuses to place himself in
accord with the political situation forfeits the confidence of his
employers and the cordial support of the Administration. The cry
throughout the North was for action. The President took it upon
himself to issue a series of orders. The army was ordered to advance
on February 22, a date chosen because it was Washington's birthday,
just as the third and most disastrous assault on Plevna was delivered
on the "name-day" of the Czar. McClellan secured delay. His plans
were not yet ripe. The Virginia roads were still impassable. The
season was not yet sufficiently advanced for active operations, and
that his objections were well founded it is impossible to deny. The
prospect of success depended much upon the weather. Virginia, covered
in many places with dense forests, crossed by many rivers, and with
most indifferent communications, is a most difficult theatre of war,
and the amenities of the Virginian spring are not to be lightly
faced. Napoleon's fifth element, "mud," is a most disturbing factor
in military calculations. It is related that a Federal officer, sent
out to reconnoitre a road in a certain district of Virginia, reported
that the road was there, but that he guessed "the bottom had fallen
out." Moreover, McClellan had reason to believe that the Confederate
army at Manassas was more than double its actual strength. His
intelligence department, controlled, not by a trained staff officer,
but by a well-known detective, estimated Johnston's force at 115,000
men. In reality, including the detachment on the Shenandoah, it at no
time exceeded 50,000. But for all this there was no reason whatever
for absolute inactivity. The capture of the batteries which barred
the entrance to the Potomac, the defeat of the Confederate
detachments along the river, the occupation of Winchester or of
Leesburg, were all feasible operations. By such means the impatience
of the Northern people might have been assuaged. A few successes,
even on a small scale, would have raised the morale of the troops and
have trained them to offensive movements. The general would have
retained the confidence of the Administration, and have secured the
respect of his opponents. Jackson had set him the example. His winter
expeditions had borne fruit. The Federal generals opposed to him gave
him full credit for activity. "Much dissatisfaction was expressed by
the troops," says one of Banks' brigadiers, "that Jackson was
permitted to get away from Winchester without a fight, and but little
heed was paid to my assurances that this chieftain would be apt,
before the war closed, to give us an entertainment up to the utmost
of our aspirations."* (* General G.H. Gordon.)

It was not only of McClellan's inactivity that the Government
complained. At the end of February he submitted a plan of operations
to the President, and with that plan Mr. Lincoln totally disagreed.
McClellan, basing his project on the supposition that Johnston had
100,000 men behind formidable intrenchments at Manassas, blocking the
road to Richmond, proposed to transfer 150,000 men to the Virginia
coast by sea; and landing either at Urbanna on the Rappahannock, or
at Fortress Monroe on the Yorktown peninsula, to intervene between
the Confederate army and Richmond, and possibly to capture the
Southern capital before Johnston could get back to save it.

The plan at first sight seemed promising. But in Lincoln's eyes it
had this great defect: during the time McClellan was moving round by
water and disembarking his troops--and this, so few were the
transports, would take at least a month--Johnston might make a dash
at Washington. The city had been fortified. A cordon of detached
forts surrounded it on a circumference of thirty miles. The Potomac
formed an additional protection. But a cordon of isolated earthworks
does not appeal as an effective barrier to the civilian mind, and
above Point of Rocks the great river was easy of passage. Even if
Washington were absolutely safe from a coup de main, Lincoln had
still good reason for apprehension. The Union capital was merely the
seat of government. It had no commercial interests. With a population
of but 20,000, it was of no more practical importance than Windsor or
Versailles. Compared with New York, Pittsburg, or Philadelphia, it
was little more than a village. But, in the regard of the Northern
people, Washington was the centre of the Union, the keystone of the
national existence. The Capitol, the White House, the Treasury, were
symbols as sacred to the States as the colours to a regiment.* (* For
an interesting exposition of the views of the soldiers at Washington,
see evidence of General Hitchcock, U.S.A., acting as Military Adviser
to the President, O.R. volume 12 part 1 page 221.) If the nation was
set upon the fall of Richmond, it was at least as solicitous for the
security of its own chief city, and an administration that permitted
that security to be endangered would have been compelled to bow to
the popular clamour. The extraordinary taxation demanded by the war
already pressed heavily on the people. Stocks were falling rapidly,
and the financial situation was almost critical. It is probable, too,
that a blow at Washington would have done more than destroy all
confidence in the Government. England and France were chafing under
the effects of the blockade. The marts of Europe were hungry for
cotton. There was much sympathy beyond seas with the seceded States;
and, should Washington fall, the South, in all likelihood, would be
recognised as an independent nation. Even if the Great Powers were to
refuse her active aid in the shape of fleets and armies, she would at
least have access to the money markets of the world; and it was
possible that neither England nor France would endure the closing of
her ports. With the breaking of the blockade, money, munitions, and
perhaps recruits, would be poured into the Confederacy, and the
difficulty of reconquest would be trebled. The dread of foreign
interference was, therefore, very real; and Lincoln, foreseeing the
panic that would shake the nation should a Confederate army cross the
Potomac at Harper's Ferry or Point of Rocks, was quite justified in
insisting on the security of Washington being placed beyond a doubt.
He knew, as also did Jackson, that even a mere demonstration against
so vital a point might have the most deplorable effect. Whatever line
of invasion, he asked, might be adopted, let it be one that would
cover Washington.

Lincoln's remonstrances, however, had no great weight with McClellan.
The general paid little heed to the political situation. His chief
argument in favour of the expedition by sea had been the strength of
the fortifications at Manassas. Johnston's retreat on March 9 removed
this obstacle from his path; but although he immediately marched his
whole army in pursuit, he still remained constant to his favourite
idea. The road to Richmond from Washington involved a march of one
hundred miles, over a difficult country, with a single railway as the
line of supply. The route from the coast, although little shorter,
was certainly easier. Fortress Monroe had remained in Federal hands.
Landing under the shelter of its guns, he would push forward, aided
by the navy, to West Point, the terminus of the York River Railroad,
within thirty miles of Richmond, transporting his supplies by water.
Washington, with the garrison he would leave behind, would in his
opinion be quite secure. The Confederates would be compelled to
concentrate for the defence of their capital, and a resolute
endeavour on their part to cross the Potomac was forbidden by every
rule of strategy. Had not Johnston, in his retreat, burnt the railway
bridges? Could there be a surer indication that he had no intention
of returning?

Such was McClellan's reasoning, and, putting politics aside, it was
perfectly sound. Lincoln reluctantly yielded, and on March 17 the
Army of the Potomac, withdrawing by successive divisions from
Centreville to Alexandria, began its embarkation for the Peninsula,
the region, in McClellan's words, "of sandy roads and short land
transportation."* (* O.R. volume 11 part 3 page 7.) The vessels
assembled at Alexandria could only carry 10,000 men, thus involving
at least fifteen voyages to and fro. Yet the Commander-in-Chief was
full of confidence. To the little force in the Shenandoah Valley,
flying southward before Shields, he gave no thought. It would have
been nothing short of miraculous had he even suspected that 4500 men,
under a professor of the higher mathematics, might bring to naught
the operations of his gigantic host. Jackson was not even to be
followed. Of Banks' three divisions, Shields', Sedgwick's, and
Williams', that of Shields alone was considered sufficient to protect
Harper's Ferry, the Baltimore and Ohio Railway, and the Chesapeake
Canal.* (* Ibid page 11.) Banks, with the remainder of his army, was
to move at once to Manassas, and cover the approaches to Washington
east of the Blue Ridge. Sedgwick had already been detached to join
McClellan; and on March 20 Williams' division began its march towards
Manassas, while Shields fell back on Winchester.

March 21.

(MAP. SITUATION, NIGHT OF MARCH 21, 1862. Showing: West: McDowell,
North: Baltimore, South: Yorktown and East: Urbanna.)

On the evening of the 21st Ashby reported to Jackson that the enemy
was retreating, and information came to hand that a long train of
waggons, containing the baggage of 12,000 men, had left Winchester
for Castleman's Ferry on the Shenandoah. Further reports indicated
that Banks' whole force was moving eastward, and Jackson, in
accordance with his instructions to hold the enemy in the Valley, at
once pushed northward.* (* A large portion of the Army of the
Potomac, awaiting embarkation, still remained at Centreville. The
cavalry had pushed forward towards the Rapidan, and the Confederates,
unable to get information, did not suspect that McClellan was moving
to the Peninsula until March 25.)

March 22.

On the 22nd, Ashby, with 280 troopers and 3 horse-artillery guns,
struck Shields' pickets about a mile south of Winchester. A skirmish
ensued, and the presence of infantry, a battery, and some cavalry,
was ascertained. Shields, who was wounded during the engagement by a
shell, handled his troops ably. His whole division was in the near
neighbourhood, but carefully concealed, and Ashby reported to Jackson
that only four regiments of infantry, besides the guns and cavalry,
remained at Winchester. Information obtained from the townspeople
within the Federal lines confirmed the accuracy of his estimate. The
enemy's main body, he was told, had already marched, and the troops
which had opposed him were under orders to move to Harper's Ferry the
next morning.

March 23.

On receipt of this intelligence Jackson hurried forward from his camp
near Woodstock, and that night reached Strasburg. At dawn on the 23rd
four companies were despatched to reinforce Ashby; and under cover of
this advanced guard the whole force followed in the direction of
Kernstown, a tiny village, near which the Federal outposts were
established. At one o'clock the three brigades, wearied by a march of
fourteen miles succeeding one of twenty-two on the previous day,
arrived upon the field of action. The ranks, however, were sadly
weakened, for many of the men had succumbed to their unusual
exertions. Ashby still confronted the enemy; but the Federals had
developed a brigade of infantry, supported by two batteries and
several squadrons, and the Confederate cavalry were slowly giving
ground. On reaching the field Jackson ordered the troops to bivouac.
"Though it was very desirable," he wrote, "to prevent the enemy from
leaving the Valley, yet I deemed it best not to attack until
morning." An inspection of the ground, however, convinced him that
delay was impracticable. "Ascertaining," he continued, "that the
Federals had a position from which our forces could be seen, I
concluded that it would be dangerous to postpone the attack until
next day, as reinforcements might be brought up during the night."*
(* O.R. volume 12 part 1 page 381. The staff appears to have been at
fault. It was certainly of the first importance, whether battle was
intended or not, to select a halting-place concealed from the enemy's
observation.) Ashby was directed to detach half his cavalry* (* 140
sabres.) under Major Funsten in order to cover the left flank; and
Jackson, ascertaining that his men were in good spirits at the
prospect of meeting the enemy, made his preparations for fighting his
first battle.

The position occupied by the Federals was by no means ill-adapted for
defence. The country round Winchester, and indeed throughout the
Valley of the Shenandoah, resembles in many of its features an
English landscape. Low ridges, covered with open woods of oak and
pine, overlook green pastures and scattered copses; and the absence
of hedgerows and cottages gives a park-like aspect to the broad acres
of rich blue grass. But the deep lanes and hollow roads of England
find here no counterpart. The tracks are rough and rude, and even the
pikes, as the main thoroughfares are generally called, are flush with
the fields on either hand. The traffic has not yet worn them to a
lower level, and Virginia road-making despises such refinements as
cuttings or embankments. The highways, even the Valley pike itself,
the great road which is inseparably linked with the fame of Stonewall
Jackson and his brigade, are mere ribbons of metal laid on swell and
swale. Fences of the rudest description, zigzags of wooden rails, or
walls of loose stone, are the only boundaries, and the land is
parcelled out in more generous fashion than in an older and more
crowded country. More desirable ground for military operations it
would be difficult to find. There are few obstacles to the movement
of cavalry and artillery, while the woods and undulations, giving
ample cover, afford admirable opportunities for skilful manoeuvre. In
the spring, however, the condition of the soil would be a drawback.
At the date of the battle part of the country round Kernstown was
under plough, and the whole was saturated with moisture. Horses sank
fetlock-deep in the heavy meadows, and the rough roads, hardly seen
for mud, made marching difficult.

The Federal front extended on both sides of the Valley turnpike. To
the east was a broad expanse of rolling grassland, stretching away to
the horizon; to the west a low knoll, crowned by a few trees, which
goes by the name of Pritchard's Hill. Further north was a ridge,
covered with brown woods, behind which lies Winchester. This ridge,
nowhere more than 100 feet in height, runs somewhat obliquely to the
road in a south-westerly direction, and passing within a mile and a
half of Pritchard's Hill, sinks into the plain three miles south-west
of Kernstown. Some distance beyond this ridge, and separated from it
by the narrow valley of the Opequon, rise the towering bluffs of the
North Mountain, the western boundary of the Valley, sombre with
forest from base to brow.

On leaving Winchester, Williams' division had struck due east,
passing through the village of Berryville, and making for Snicker's
Gap in the Blue Ridge. The Berryville road had thus become of
importance to the garrison of Winchester, for it was from that
direction, if they should become necessary, that reinforcements would
arrive. General Kimball, commanding in Shields' absence the division
which confronted Ashby, had therefore posted the larger portion of
his troops eastward of the pike. A strong force of infantry, with
waving colours, was plainly visible to the Confederates, and it was
seen that the extreme left was protected by several guns. On the
right of the road was a line of skirmishers, deployed along the base
of Pritchard's Hill, and on the knoll itself stood two batteries. The
wooded ridge to westward was as yet unoccupied, except by scouting

Jackson at once determined to turn the enemy's right. An attack upon
the Federal left would have to be pushed across the open fields and
decided by fair fighting, gun and rifle against gun and rifle, and on
that flank the enemy was prepared for battle. Could he seize the
wooded ridge on his left, the initiative would be his. His opponent
would be compelled to conform to his movements. The advantages of a
carefully selected position would be lost. Instead of receiving
attack where he stood, the Federal general would have to change front
to meet it, to execute movements which he had possibly not foreseen,
to fight on ground with which he was unfamiliar; and, instead of
carrying out a plan which had been previously thought out, to
conceive a new one on the spur of the moment, and to issue immediate
orders for a difficult operation. Hesitation and confusion might
ensue; and in place of a strongly established line, confidently
awaiting the advance, isolated regiments, in all the haste and
excitement of rapid movement, or hurriedly posted in unfavourable
positions, would probably oppose the Confederate onset. Such are the
advantages which accrue to the force which delivers an attack where
it is not expected; and, to all appearance, Jackson's plan of battle
promised to bring them into play to the very fullest extent. The
whole force of the enemy, as reported by Ashby, was before him,
plainly visible. To seize the wooded ridge, while the cavalry held
the Federals fast in front; to pass beyond Pritchard's Hill, and to
cut the line of retreat on Winchester, seemed no difficult task. The
only danger was the possibility of a counterstroke while the
Confederates were executing their turning movement. But the enemy, so
far as Jackson's information went, was rapidly withdrawing from the
Valley. The force confronting him was no more than a rear-guard; and
it was improbable in the extreme that a mere rear-guard would involve
itself in a desperate engagement. The moment its line of retreat was
threatened it would probably fall back. To provide, however, against
all emergencies, Colonel Burks' brigade of three battalions was left
for the present in rear of Kernstown, and here, too, remained four of
the field batteries. With the remainder of his force, two brigades of
infantry and a battery, Jackson moved off to his left. Two companies
of the 5th Virginia were recruited from Winchester. Early in the day
the general had asked the regiment for a guide familiar with the
locality; and, with the soldier showing the way, the 27th Virginia,
with two of Carpenter's guns as advanced guard, struck westward by a
waggon track across the meadows, while Ashby pressed the Federals in
front of Kernstown.

3.45 P.M.

The main body followed in two parallel columns, and the line of march
soon brought them within range of the commanding batteries on
Pritchard's Hill.* (* No hidden line of approach was available.
Movement to the south was limited by the course of the Opequon.
Fulkerson's brigade, with Carpenter's two guns, marched nearest to
the enemy; the Stonewall Brigade was on Fulkerson's left.) At a range
of little more than a mile the enemy's gunners poured a heavy fire on
the serried ranks, and Carpenter, unlimbering near the Opequon
Church, sought to distract their aim.

The Confederate infantry, about 2000 all told, although moving in
mass, and delayed by fences and marshy ground, passed unscathed under
the storm of shell, and in twenty minutes the advanced guard had
seized the wooded ridge.

Finding a rocky clearing on the crest, about a mile distant from
Pritchard's Hill, Jackson sent back for the artillery. Three
batteries, escorted by two of Burke's battalions, the 21st Virginia
and the Irishmen, pushed across the level as rapidly as the wearied
teams could move. Two guns were dismounted by the Federal fire; but,
coming into action on the ridge, the remainder engaged the hostile
batteries with effect. Meanwhile, breaking their way through the
ragged undergrowth of the bare March woods, the infantry, in two
lines, was pressing forward along the ridge. On the right was the
27th Virginia, supported by the 21st; on the left, Fulkerson's two
battalions, with the Stonewall Brigade in second line. The 5th
Virginia remained at the foot of the ridge near Macauley's cottage,
in order to connect with Ashby. Jackson's tactics appeared to be
succeeding perfectly. A body of cavalry and infantry, posted behind
Pritchard's Hill, was seen to be withdrawing, and the fire of the
Federal guns was visibly weakening.

4.30 P.M.

Suddenly, in the woods northward of the Confederate batteries, was
heard a roar of musketry, and the 27th Virginia came reeling back
before the onslaught of superior numbers. But the 21st was hurried to
their assistance; the broken ranks rallied from their surprise; and a
long line of Federal skirmishers, thronging through the thickets, was
twice repulsed by the Southern marksmen.*

(* The Confederate advance was made in the following order: ________
________ ________ 23rd Va. 37th Va. 27th Va.
2lst Va. _______
________ _______ 4th Va. 33rd Va. 2nd Va.
Irish Battn.)

Fulkerson, further to the left, was more fortunate than the 27th.
Before he began his advance along the ridge he had deployed his two
battalions under cover, and when the musketry broke out on his right
front, they were moving forward over an open field. Half-way across
the field ran a stone wall or fence, and beyond the wall were seen
the tossing colours and bright bayonets of a line of battle, just
emerging from the woods. Then came a race for the wall, and the
Confederates won. A heavy fire, at the closest range, blazed out in
the face of the charging Federals, and in a few moments the stubble
was strewn with dead and wounded. A Pennsylvania regiment, leaving a
colour on the field, gave way in panic, and the whole of the enemy's
force retreated to the shelter of the woods. An attempt to turn
Jackson's left was then easily frustrated; and although the Federals
maintained a heavy fire, Fulkerson's men held stubbornly to the wall.

In the centre of the field the Northern riflemen were sheltered by a
bank; their numbers continually increased, and here the struggle was
more severe. The 4th and 33rd Virginia occupied this portion of the
line, and they were without support, for the 2nd Virginia and the
Irish battalion, the last available reserves upon the ridge, had been
already sent forward to reinforce the right.

The right, too, was hardly pressed. The Confederate infantry had
everywhere to do with superior numbers, and the artillery, in that
wooded ground, could lend but small support. The batteries protected
the right flank, but they could take no share in the struggle to the
front; and yet, as the dusk came on, after two long hours of battle,
the white colours of the Virginia regiments, fixed fast amongst the
rocks, still waved defiant. The long grey line, "a ragged spray of
humanity," plied the ramrod with still fiercer energy, and pale women
on the hills round Winchester listened in terror to the crashing
echoes of the leafless woods. But the end could not be long delayed.
Ammunition was giving out. Every company which had reached the ridge
had joined the fighting line. The ranks were thinning. Many of the
bravest officers were down, and the Northern regiments, standing
staunchly to their work, had been strongly reinforced.

Ashby for once had been mistaken. It was no rearguard that barred the
road to Winchester, but Shields' entire division, numbering at least
9000 men. A prisoner captured the day before had admitted that the
Confederates were under the impression that Winchester had been
evacuated, and that Jackson had immediately moved forward. Shields,
an able officer, who had commanded a brigade in Mexico, saw his
opportunity. He knew something of his opponent, and anticipating that
he would be eager to attack, had ordered the greater part of his
division to remain concealed. Kimball's brigade and five batteries
were sent quietly, under cover of the night, to Pritchard's Hill.
Sullivan's brigade was posted in support, hidden from view behind a
wood. The cavalry and Tyler's brigade were held in reserve, north of
the town, at a distance where they were not likely to be observed by
the inhabitants. As soon as the Confederates came in sight, and
Kimball deployed across the pike, Tyler was brought through the town
and placed in rear of Sullivan, at a point where the road dips down
between two parallel ridges. Shields himself, wounded in the skirmish
of the preceding day, was not present at the action, although
responsible for these dispositions, and the command had devolved on
Kimball. That officer, when Jackson's design became apparent, ordered
Tyler to occupy the wooded ridge; and it was his five regiments, over
3000 strong, which had struck so strongly at the Confederate advance.
But although superior in numbers by a third, they were unable to make
headway. Kimball, however, rose to the situation before it was too
late. Recognising that Ashby's weak attack was nothing more than a
demonstration, he hurried nearly the whole of his own brigade,
followed by three battalions of Sullivan's, to Tyler's aid, leaving a
couple of battalions and the artillery to hold the pike.

"The struggle," says Shields, "had been for a short time doubtful,"*
(* O.R. volume 12 part 1 page 341.) but this reinforcement of 3000
bayonets turned the scale. Jackson had ordered the 5th and 42nd
Virginia to the ridge, and a messenger was sent back to hurry forward
the 48th. But it was too late. Before the 5th could reach the heights
the centre of the Confederate line was broken. Garnett, the commander
of the Stonewall Brigade, without referring to the general, who was
in another part of the field, had given the order to fall back.
Fulkerson, whose right was now uncovered, was obliged to conform to
the rearward movement, and moving across from Pritchard's Hill, two
Federal regiments, despite the fire of the Southern guns, made a
vigorous attack on Jackson's right. The whole Confederate line, long
since dissolved into a crowd of skirmishers, and with the various
regiments much mixed up, fell back, still fighting, through the
woods. Across the clearing, through the clouds of smoke, came the
Northern masses in pursuit. On the extreme right a hot fire of
canister, at a range of two hundred and fifty yards, drove back the
troops that had come from Pritchard's Hill; but on the wooded ridge
above the artillery was unable to hold its own. The enemy's riflemen
swarmed in the thickets, and the batteries fell back. As they
limbered up one of the six-pounders was overturned. Under a hot fire,
delivered at not more than fifty paces distant, the sergeant in
charge cut loose the three remaining horses, but the gun was
abandoned to the enemy.

Jackson, before the Federal reinforcements had made their presence
felt, was watching the progress of the action on the left. Suddenly,
to his astonishment and wrath, he saw the lines of his old brigade
falter and fall back. Galloping to the spot he imperatively ordered
Garnett to hold his ground, and then turned to restore the fight.
Seizing a drummer by the shoulder, he dragged him to a rise of
ground, in full view of the troops, and bade him in curt, quick
tones, to "Beat the rally!" The drum rolled at his order, and with
his hand on the frightened boy's shoulder, amidst a storm of balls,
he tried to check the flight of his defeated troops. His efforts were
useless. His fighting-line was shattered into fragments; and
although, according to a Federal officer, "many of the brave
Virginians lingered in rear of their retreating comrades, loading as
they slowly retired, and rallying in squads in every ravine and
behind every hill--or hiding singly among the trees,"* (* Colonel
E.H.C. Cavins, 14th Indiana. Battles and Leaders volume 2 page 307.)
it was impossible to stay the rout. The enemy was pressing forward in
heavy force, and their shouts of triumph rang from end to end of the
field of battle. No doubt remained as to their overwhelming numbers,
and few generals but would have been glad enough to escape without
tempting fortune further.

It seemed almost too late to think of even organising a rear-guard.
But Jackson, so far from preparing for retreat, had not yet ceased to
think of victory. The 5th and 42nd Virginia were coming up, a compact
force of 600 bayonets, and a vigorous and sudden counterstroke might
yet change the issue of the day. The reinforcements, however, had not
yet come in sight, and galloping back to meet them he found that
instead of marching resolutely against the enemy, the two regiments
had taken post to the rear, on the crest of a wooded swell, in order
to cover the retreat. On his way to the front the colonel of the 5th
Virginia had received an order from Garnett instructing him to occupy
a position behind which the fighting-line might recover its
formation. Jackson was fain to acquiesce; but the fighting-line was
by this time scattered beyond all hope of rallying; the opportunity
for the counterstroke had passed away, and the battle was
irretrievably lost.

Arrangements were quickly made to enable the broken troops to get
away without further molestation. A battery was ordered to take post
at the foot of the hill, and Funsten's cavalry was called up from
westward of the ridge. The 42nd Virginia came into line on the right
of the 5th, and covered by a stone wall and thick timber, these two
small regiments, encouraged by the presence of their commander, held
stoutly to their ground. The attack was pressed with reckless
gallantry. In front of the 5th Virginia the colours of the 5th Ohio
changed hands no less than six times, and one of them was pierced by
no less than eight-and-forty bullets. The 84th Pennsylvania was twice
repulsed and twice rallied, but on the fall of its colonel retreated
in confusion. The left of the 14th Indiana broke; but the 13th
Indiana now came up, and "inch by inch," according to their
commanding officer, the Confederates were pushed back. The 5th
Virginia was compelled to give way before a flanking fire; but the
colonel retired the colours to a short distance, and ordered the
regiment to re-form on them. Again the heavy volleys blazed out in
the gathering twilight, and the sheaves of death grew thicker every
moment on the bare hillside. But still the Federals pressed on, and
swinging round both flanks, forced the Confederate rear-guard from
the field, while their cavalry, moving up the valley of the Opequon,
captured several ambulances and cut off some two or three hundred

As the night began to fall the 5th Virginia, retiring steadily
towards the pike, filed into a narrow lane, fenced by a stone wall,
nearly a mile distant from their last position, and there took post
for a final stand. Their left was commanded by the ridge, and on the
heights in the rear, coming up from the Opequon valley, appeared a
large mass of Northern cavalry. It was a situation sufficiently
uncomfortable. If the ground was too difficult for the horsemen to
charge over in the gathering darkness, a volley from their carbines
could scarcely have failed to clear the wall. "A single ramrod," it
was said in the Confederate ranks, "would have spitted the whole
battalion." But not a shot was fired. The pursuit of the Federal
infantry had been stayed in the pathless woods, the cavalry was held
in check by Funsten's squadrons, and the 5th was permitted to retire

Neal's Dam, North: Winchester, South: Opequon Creek, East: old Road
to Front Royal.)

The Confederates, with the exception of Ashby, who halted at
Bartonsville, a farm upon the pike, a mile and a half from the field
of battle, fell back to Newtown, three miles further south, where the
trains had been parked. The men were utterly worn out. Three hours of
fierce fighting against far superior numbers had brought them to the
limit of their endurance. "In the fence corners, under the trees, and
around the waggons they threw themselves down, many too weary to eat,
and forgot, in profound slumber, the trials, the dangers, and the
disappointments of the day."* (* Jackson's Valley Campaign, Colonel
William Allan, C.S.A. page 54.)

Jackson, when the last sounds of battle had died away, followed his
troops. Halting by a camp-fire, he stood and warmed himself for a
time, and then, remounting, rode back to Bartonsville. Only one staff
officer, his chief commissary, Major Hawks, accompanied him. The rest
had dropped away, overcome by exhaustion. "Turning from the road into
an orchard, he fastened up his horse, and asked his companion if he
could make a fire, adding, "We shall have to burn fence-rails
to-night." The major soon had a roaring fire, and was making a bed of
rails, when the general wished to know what he was doing. "Finding a
place to sleep," was the reply. "You seem determined to make yourself
and those around you comfortable," said Jackson. And knowing the
general had fasted all day, he soon obtained some bread and meat from
the nearest squad of soldiers, and after they had satisfied their
hunger, they slept soundly on the rail-bed in a fence-corner."

Such was the battle of Kernstown, in which over 1200 men were killed
and wounded, the half of them Confederates. Two or three hundred
prisoners fell into the hands of the Federals. Nearly one-fourth of
Jackson's infantry was hors de combat, and he had lost two guns. His
troops were undoubtedly depressed. They had anticipated an easy
victory; the overwhelming strength of the Federals had surprised
them, and their losses had been severe. But no regret disturbed the
slumbers of their leader. He had been defeated, it was true; but he
looked further than the immediate result of the engagement. "I feel
justified in saying," he wrote in his short report, "that, though the
battle-field is in the possession of the enemy, yet the most
essential fruits of the victory are ours." As he stood before the
camp-fire near Newtown, wrapped in his long cloak, his hands behind
his back, and stirring the embers with his foot, one of Ashby's
youngest troopers ventured to interrupt his reverie. "The Yankees
don't seem willing to quit Winchester, General!" "Winchester is a
very pleasant place to stay in, sir!" was the quick reply. Nothing
daunted, the boy went on: "It was reported that they were retreating,
but I guess they're retreating after us." With his eyes still fixed
on the blazing logs: "I think I may say I am satisfied, sir!" was
Jackson's answer; and with no further notice of the silent circle
round the fire, he stood gazing absently into the glowing flames.
After a few minutes the tall figure turned away, and without another
word strode off into the darkness.

That Jackson divined the full effect of his attack would be to assert
too much. That he realised that the battle, though a tactical defeat,
was strategically a victory is very evident. He knew something of
Banks, he knew more of McClellan, and the bearing of the Valley on
the defence of Washington had long been uppermost in his thoughts. He
had learned from Napoleon to throw himself into the spirit of his
enemy, and it is not improbable that when he stood before the fire
near Newtown he had already foreseen, in some degree at least, the
events that would follow the news of his attack at Kernstown.

The outcome of the battle was indeed far-reaching. "Though the battle
had been won," wrote Shields, "still I could not have believed that
Jackson would have hazarded a decisive engagement, so far from the
main body, without expecting reinforcements; so, to be prepared for
such a contingency, I set to work during the night to bring together
all the troops within my reach. I sent an express after Williams'
division, requesting the rear brigade, about twenty miles distant, to
march all night and join me in the morning. I swept the posts in rear
of almost all their guards, hurrying them forward by forced marches,
to be with me at daylight."* (* O.R. volume 12 part 1 page 341.)

General Banks, hearing of the engagement on his way to Washington,
halted at Harper's Ferry, and he also ordered Williams' division to
return at once to Winchester.

One brigade only,* (* Abercrombie's, 4500 men and a battery. The
brigade marched to Warrenton, where it remained until it was
transferred to McDowell's command.) which the order did not reach,
continued the march to Manassas. This counter-movement met with
McClellan's approval. He now recognised that Jackson's force,
commanded as it was, was something more than a mere corps of
observation, and that it was essential that it should be crushed.
"Your course was right," he telegraphed on receiving Banks' report.
"As soon as you are strong enough push Jackson hard and drive him
well beyond Strasburg...The very moment the thorough defeat of
Jackson will permit it, resume the movement on Manassas, always
leaving the whole of Shields' command at or near Strasburg and
Winchester until the Manassas Gap Railway is fully repaired.
Communicate fully and act vigorously."* (* O.R. volume 12 part 3 page

8000 men (Williams' division) were thus temporarily withdrawn from
the force that was to cover Washington from the south. But this was
only the first step. Jackson's action had forcibly attracted the
attention of the Federal Government to the Upper Potomac. The
President was already contemplating the transfer of Blenker's
division from McClellan to Fremont; the news of Kernstown decided the
question, and at the end of March these 9000 men were ordered to West
Virginia, halting at Strasburg, in case Banks should then need them,
on their way.* (* Blenker's division was at Hunter's Chapel, south of
Washington, when it received the order.) But even this measure did
not altogether allay Mr. Lincoln's apprehensions. McClellan had
assured him, on April 1, that 73,000 men would be left for the
defence of the capital and its approaches. But in the original
arrangement, with which the President had been satisfied, Williams
was to have been brought to Manassas, and Shields alone left in the
Shenandoah Valley. Under the new distribution the President found
that the force at Manassas would be decreased by two brigades; and,
at the same time, that while part of the troops McClellan had
promised were not forthcoming, a large portion of those actually
available were good for nothing. The officer left in command at
Washington reported that "nearly all his force was imperfectly
disciplined; that several of the regiments were in a very
disorganised condition; that efficient artillery regiments had been
removed from the forts, and that he had to relieve them with very new
infantry regiments, entirely unacquainted with the duties of that
arm."* (* Report of General Wadsworth; O.R. volume 12 part 3 page
225.) Lincoln submitted the question to six generals of the regular
army, then present in Washington; and these officers replied that, in
their opinion, "the requirement of the President that this city shall
be left entirely secure has not been fully complied with."* (* Letter
of Mr. Stanton; O.R. volume 19 part 2 page 726.)

On receiving this report, Lincoln ordered the First Army Corps,
37,000 strong, under General McDowell, to remain at Manassas in place
of embarking for the Peninsula; and thus McClellan, on the eve of his
advance on Richmond, found his original force of 150,000 reduced by
46,000 officers and men. Moreover, not content with detaching
McDowell for a time, Lincoln, the next day, assigned that general to
an independent command, covering the approaches to Washington; Banks,
also, was withdrawn from McClellan's control, and directed to defend
the Valley. The original dissemination of the Federal forces was thus
gravely accentuated, and the Confederates had now to deal with four
distinct armies, McClellan's, McDowell's, Banks', and Fremont's,
dependent for co-operation on the orders of two civilians, President
Lincoln and his Secretary of War. And this was not all. McDowell had
been assigned a most important part in McClellan's plan of invasion.
The road from Fortress Monroe was barred by the fortifications of
Yorktown. These works could be turned, however, by sending a force up
the York River. But the passage of the stream was debarred to the
Federal transports by a strong fort at Gloucester Point, on the left
bank, and the capture of this work was to be the task of the First
Army Corps. No wonder that McClellan, believing that Johnston
commanded 100,000 men, declared that in his deliberate judgment the
success of the Federal cause was imperilled by the order which
detached McDowell from his command. However inadequately the capital
might be defended, it was worse than folly to interfere with the
general's plans when he was on the eve of executing them. The best
way of defending Washington was for McClellan to march rapidly on
Richmond, and seize his adversary by the throat. By depriving him of
McDowell, Lincoln and his advisers made such a movement difficult,
and the grand army of invasion found itself in a most embarrassing
situation. Such was the effect of a blow struck at the right place
and the right time, though struck by no more than 3000 bayonets.

The battle of Kernstown was undoubtedly well fought. It is true that
Jackson believed that he had no more than four regiments of infantry,
a few batteries, and some cavalry before him. But it was a skilful
manoeuvre, which threw three brigades and three batteries, more than
two-thirds of his whole strength, on his opponent's flank. An
ordinary general would probably have employed only a small portion of
his force in the turning movement. Not so the student of Napoleon.
"In the general's haversack," says one of Jackson's staff, "were
always three books: the Bible, Napoleon's Maxims of War, and
Webster's Dictionary--for his spelling was uncertain--and these books
he constantly consulted." Whether the chronicles of the Jewish kings
threw any light on the tactical problem involved at Kernstown may be
left to the commentators; but there can be no question as to the
Maxims. To hurl overwhelming numbers at the point where the enemy
least expects attack is the whole burden of Napoleon's teaching, and
there can be no doubt but that the wooded ridge, unoccupied save by a
few scouts, was the weakest point of the defence.

The manoeuvre certainly surprised the Federals, and it very nearly
beat them. Tyler's brigade was unsupported for nearly an hour and a
half. Had his battalions been less staunch, the tardy reinforcements
would have been too late to save the day. Coming up as they did, not
in a mass so strong as to bear all before it by its own inherent
weight, but in successive battalions, at wide intervals of time, they
would themselves have become involved in a desperate engagement under
adverse circumstances. Nor is Kimball to be blamed that he did not
throw greater weight on Jackson's turning column at an earlier hour.
Like Shields and Banks, he was unable to believe that Jackson was
unsupported. He expected that the flank attack would be followed up
by one in superior numbers from the front. He could hardly credit
that an inferior force would deliberately move off to a flank,
leaving its line of retreat to be guarded by a few squadrons, weakly
supported by infantry; and the audacity of the assailant had the
usual effect of deceiving the defender.

Kernstown, moreover, will rank as an example of what determined men
can do against superior numbers. The Confederates on the ridge,
throughout the greater part of the fight, hardly exceeded 2000
muskets. They were assailed by 3000, and proved a match for them. The
3000 were then reinforced by at least 3000 more, whilst Jackson could
bring up only 600 muskets to support an already broken line.
Nevertheless, these 6000 Northerners were so roughly handled that
there was practically no pursuit. When the Confederates fell back
every one of the Federal regiments had been engaged, and there were
no fresh troops wherewith to follow them. Jackson was perfectly
justified in reporting that "Night and an indisposition of the enemy
to press further terminated the battle."* (* O.R. volume 12 part 1
page 382.)

But the action was attended by features more remarkable than the
stubborn resistance of the Virginia regiments. It is seldom that a
battle so insignificant as Kernstown has been followed by such
extraordinary results. Fortune indeed favoured the Confederates. At
the time of the battle a large portion of McClellan's army was at
sea, and the attack was delivered at the very moment when it was most
dreaded by the Northern Government. Nor was it to the disadvantage of
the Southerners that the real head of the Federal army was the
President, and that his strategical conceptions were necessarily
subservient to the attitude of the Northern people. These were
circumstances purely fortuitous, and it might seem, therefore, that
Jackson merely blundered into success. But he must be given full
credit for recognizing that a blow at Banks might be fraught with
most important consequences. It was with other ideas than defeating a
rear-guard or detaining Banks that he seized the Kernstown ridge. He
was not yet aware of McClellan's plan of invasion by sea; but he knew
well that any movement that would threaten Washington must prove
embarrassing to the Federal Government; that they could not afford to
leave the Upper Potomac ill secured; and that the knowledge that an
active and enterprising enemy, who had shown himself determined to
take instant advantage of every opportunity, was within the Valley,
would probably cause them to withdraw troops from McClellan in order
to guard the river. A fortnight after the battle, asking for
reinforcements, he wrote, "If Banks is defeated it may greatly retard
McClellan's movements."* (* Ibid part 3 page 844.)

Stubborn as had been the fighting of his brigades, Jackson himself
was not entirely satisfied with his officers. When Sullivan and
Kimball came to Tyler's aid, and a new line of battle threatened to
overwhelm the Stonewall regiments, Garnett, on his own
responsibility, had given the order to retire. Many of the men, their
ammunition exhausted, had fallen to the rear. The exertions of the
march had begun to tell. The enemy's attacks had been fiercely
pressed, and before the pressure of his fresh brigades the
Confederate power of resistance was strained to breaking-point.
Garnett had behaved with conspicuous gallantry. The officers of his
brigade declared that he was perfectly justified in ordering a
retreat. Jackson thought otherwise, and almost immediately after the
battle he relieved him of his command, placed him under arrest, and
framed charges for his trial by court-martial. He would not accept
the excuse that ammunition had given out. At the time the Stonewall
Brigade gave back the 5th and 42nd Virginia were at hand. The men had
still their bayonets, and he did not consider the means of victory
exhausted until the cold steel had been employed. "He insisted," says
Dabney, "that a more resolute struggle might have won the field."* (*
Dabney volume 2 page 46.)

Now, in the first place, it must be conceded that Garnett had not the
slightest right to abandon his position without a direct order.* (*
He was aware, moreover, that supports were coming up, for the order
to the 5th Virginia was sent through him. Report of Colonel W.H.
Harman, 5th Virginia, O.R. volume 12 part 1 pages 391 and 392.) In
the second, if we turn to the table of losses furnished by the
brigade commander, we find that in Garnett's four regiments,
numbering 1100 officers and men, there fell 153. In addition, 148
were reported missing, but, according to the official reports, the
majority of these were captured by the Federal cavalry and were
unwounded. At most, then, when he gave the order to retreat, Garnett
had lost 200, or rather less than 20 per cent.

Such loss was heavy, but by no means excessive. A few months later
hardly a brigade in either army would have given way because every
fifth man had fallen. A year later and the Stonewall regiments would
have considered an action in which they lost 200 men as nothing more
than a skirmish.* (* On March 5, 1811, in the battle fought on the
arid ridges of Barossa, the numbers were almost identical with those
engaged at Kernstown. Out of 4000 British soldiers there fell in an
hour over 1200, and of 9000 French more than 2000 were killed or
wounded; and yet, although the victors were twenty-four hours under
arms without food, the issue was never doubtful.) The truth would
seem to be that the Valley soldiers were not yet blooded. In peace
the individual is everything; material prosperity, self-indulgence,
and the preservation of existence are the general aim. In war the
individual is nothing, and men learn the lesson of self-sacrifice.
But it is only gradually, however high the enthusiasm which inspires
the troops, that the ideas of peace become effaced, and they must be
seasoned soldiers who will endure, without flinching, the losses of
Waterloo or Gettysburg. Discipline, which means the effacement of the
individual, does more than break the soldier to unhesitating
obedience; it trains him to die for duty's sake, and even the
Stonewall Brigade, in the spring of 1862, was not yet thoroughly
disciplined. "The lack of competent and energetic officers," writes
Jackson's chief of the staff, "was at this time the bane of the
service. In many there was neither an intelligent comprehension of
their duties nor zeal in their performance. Appointed by the votes of
their neighbours and friends, they would neither exercise that
rigidity in governing, nor that detailed care in providing for the
wants of their men, which are necessary to keep soldiers efficient.
The duties of the drill and the sentry-post were often negligently
performed; and the most profuse waste of ammunition and other
military stores was permitted. It was seldom that these officers were
guilty of cowardice upon the field of battle, but they were often in
the wrong place, fighting as common soldiers when they should have
been directing others. Above all was their inefficiency marked in
their inability to keep their men in the ranks. Absenteeism grew
under them to a monstrous evil, and every poltroon and laggard found
a way of escape. Hence the frequent phenomenon that regiments, which
on the books of the commissary appeared as consumers of 500 or 1000
rations, were reported as carrying into action 250 or 300 bayonets."*
(* Dabney volume 2 pages 18 and 19.) It is unlikely that this picture
is over-coloured, and it is certainly no reproach to the Virginia
soldiers that their discipline was indifferent. There had not yet
been time to transform a multitude of raw recruits into the semblance
of a regular army. Competent instructors and trained leaders were few
in the extreme, and the work had to be left in inexperienced hands.
One Stonewall Jackson was insufficient to leaven a division of 5000

In the second place, Jackson probably remembered that the Stonewall
Brigade at Bull Run, dashing out with the bayonet on the advancing
Federals, had driven them back on their reserves. It seems hardly
probable, had Garnett at Kernstown held his ground a little longer,
that the three regiments still intact could have turned the tide of
battle. But it is not impossible. The Federals had been roughly
handled. Their losses had been heavier than those of the
Confederates. A resolute counterstroke has before now changed the
face of battle, and among unseasoned soldiers panic spreads with
extraordinary effect. So far as can be gathered from the reports,
there is no reason to suspect that the vigour of the Federal
battalions was as yet relaxed. But no one who was not actually
present can presume to judge of the temper of the troops. In every
well-contested battle there comes a moment when the combatants on
both sides become exhausted, and the general who at that moment finds
it in his heart to make one more effort will generally succeed. Such
was the experience of Grant, Virginia's stoutest enemy.* (* Grant's
Memoirs.) That moment, perhaps, had come at Kernstown; and Jackson,
than whom not Skobeleff himself had clearer vision or cooler brain in
the tumult of battle, may have observed it. It cannot be too often
repeated that numbers go for little on the battle-field. It is
possible that Jackson had in his mind, when he declared that the
victory might yet have been won, the decisive counterstroke at
Marengo, where 20,000 Austrians, pressing forward in pursuit of a
defeated enemy, were utterly overthrown by a fresh division of 6000
men supported by four squadrons.* (* The morning after the battle one
of the Confederate officers expressed the opinion that even if the
counterstroke had been successful, the Federal reserves would have
arrested it. Jackson answered, "No, if I had routed the men on the
ridge, they would all have gone off together.")

Tactical unity and morale are factors of far more importance in
battle than mere numerical strength. Troops that have been hotly
engaged, even with success, and whose nerves are wrought up to a high
state of tension, are peculiarly susceptible to surprise. If they
have lost their order, and the men find themselves under strange
officers, with unfamiliar faces beside them, the counterstroke falls
with even greater force. It is at such moments that cavalry still
finds its opportunity. It is at such moments that a resolute charge,
pushed home with drums beating and a loud cheer, may have
extraordinary results. On August 6, 1870, on the heights of Worth, a
German corps d'armee, emerging, after three hours' fierce fighting,
from the great wood on McMahon's flank, bore down upon the last
stronghold of the French. The troops were in the utmost confusion.
Divisions, brigades, regiments, and companies were mingled in one
motley mass. But the enemy was retreating; a heavy force of artillery
was close at hand, and the infantry must have numbered at least
10,000 rifles. Suddenly three battalions of Turcos, numbering no more
than 1500 bayonets, charged with wild cries, and without firing, down
the grassy slope. The Germans halted, fired a few harmless volleys,
and then, turning as one man, bolted to the shelter of the wood,
twelve hundred yards in rear.

According to an officer of the 14th Indiana, the Federals at
Kernstown were in much the same condition as the Germans at Worth.
"The Confederates fell back in great disorder, and we advanced in
disorder just as great. Over logs, through woods, over hills and
fields, the brigades, regiments, and companies advanced, in one
promiscuous, mixed, and uncontrollable mass. Officers shouted
themselves hoarse in trying to bring order out of confusion, but all
their efforts were unavailing along the front line, or rather what
ought to have been the front line."* (* Colonel E.H.C. Cavins,
Battles and Leaders volume 2 page 307.)

Garnett's conduct was not the only incident connected with Kernstown
that troubled Jackson. March 23 was a Sunday. "You appear much
concerned," he writes to his wife, "at my attacking on Sunday. I am
greatly concerned too; but I felt it my duty to do it, in
consideration of the ruinous effects that might result from
postponing the battle until the morning. So far as I can see, my
course was a wise one; the best that I could do under the
circumstances, though very distasteful to my feelings; and I hope and
pray to our Heavenly Father that I may never again be circumstanced
as on that day. I believed that, so far as our troops were concerned,
necessity and mercy both called for the battle. I do hope that the
war will soon be over, and that I shall never again be called upon to
take the field. Arms is a profession that, if its principles are
adhered to, requires an officer to do what he fears may be wrong, and
yet, according to military experience, must be done if success is to
be attained. And the fact of its being necessary to success, and
being accompanied with success, and that a departure from it is
accompanied with disaster, suggests that it must be right. Had I
fought the battle on Monday instead of Sunday, I fear our cause would
have suffered, whereas, as things turned out, I consider our cause
gained much from the engagement."

We may wonder if his wife detected the unsoundness of the argument.
To do wrong--for wrong it was according to her creed--in order that
good may ensue is what it comes to. The literal interpretation of the
Scriptural rule seems to have led her husband into difficulties; but
the incident may serve to show with what earnestness, in every action
of his life, he strove to shape his conduct with what he believed to
be his duty.

It has already been observed that Jackson's reticence was remarkable.
No general could have been more careful that no inkling of his design
should reach the enemy. He had not the slightest hesitation in
withholding his plans from even his second in command; special
correspondents were rigorously excluded from his camps; and even with
his most confidential friends his reserve was absolutely
impenetrable. During his stay at Winchester, it was his custom
directly he rose to repair to headquarters and open his
correspondence. When he returned to breakfast at Dr. Graham's there
was much anxiety evinced to hear the news from the front. What the
enemy was doing across the Potomac, scarce thirty miles away, was
naturally of intense interest to the people of the border town. But
not the smallest detail of intelligence, however unimportant, escaped
his lips. To his wife he was as uncommunicative as to the rest.
Neither hint nor suggestion made the least impression, and direct
interrogations were put by with a quiet smile. Nor was he too shy to
suggest to his superiors that silence was golden. In a report to
Johnston, written four days after Kernstown, he administered what can
scarcely be considered other than a snub, delicately expressed but

"It is understood in the Federal army that you have instructed me to
keep the forces now in this district and not permit them to cross the
Blue Ridge, and that this must be done at every hazard, and that for
the purpose of effecting this I made my attack. I have never so much
as intimated such a thing to anyone."* (* O.R. volume 12 part 3 page

It cannot be said that Jackson's judgment in attacking Shields was at
once appreciated in the South. The defeat, at first, was ranked with
the disasters in the West. But as soon as the effects upon the enemy
were appreciated the tide of popular feeling turned. The gallantry of
the Valley regiments was fully recognised, and the thanks of Congress
were tendered to Jackson and his troops.

No battle was ever yet fought in exact accordance with the demands of
theory, and Kernstown, great in its results, gives openings to the
critics. Jackson, it is said, attacked with tired troops, on
insufficient information, and contrary to orders. As to the first, it
may be said that his decision to give the enemy no time to bring up
fresh troops was absolutely justified by events. On hearing of his
approach to Kernstown, Banks immediately countermarched a brigade of
Williams' division from Castleman's Ferry. A second brigade was
recalled from Snicker's Gap on the morning of the 24th, and reached
Winchester the same evening, after a march of six-and-twenty miles.
Had attack been deferred, Shields would have been strongly reinforced.

As to the second, Jackson had used every means in his power to get
accurate intelligence.* (* The truth is that in war, accurate
intelligence, especially when two armies are in close contact, is
exceedingly difficult to obtain. At Jena, even after the battle
ended, Napoleon believed that the Prussians had put 80,000 men in
line instead of 45,000. The night before Eylau, misled by the reports
of Murat's cavalry, he was convinced that the Russians were
retreating; and before Ligny he underestimated Blucher's strength by
40,000. The curious misconceptions under which the Germans commenced
the battles of Spicheren, Mars-la-Tour, and Gravelotte will also
occur to the military reader.) Ashby had done his best. Although the
Federals had 780 cavalry present, and every approach to Winchester
was strongly picketed, his scouts had pushed within the Federal
lines, and had communicated with the citizens of Winchester. Their
reports were confirmed, according to Jackson's despatch, "from a
source which had been remarkable for its reliability," and for the
last two days a retrograde movement towards Snicker's Gap had been
reported. The ground, it is true, favoured an ambush. But the
strategic situation demanded instant action. McClellan's advanced
guard was within fifty miles of Johnston's position on the Rapidan,
and a few days' march might bring the main armies into collision. If
Jackson was to bring Banks back to the Valley, and himself join
Johnston before the expected battle, he had no time to spare.
Moreover, the information to hand was quite sufficient to justify him
in trusting something to fortune. Even a defeat, if the attack were
resolutely pushed, might have the best effect.

The third reproach, that Jackson disobeyed orders, can hardly be
sustained. He was in command of a detached force operating at a
distance from the main army, and Johnston, with a wise discretion,
had given him not orders, but instructions; that is, the
general-in-chief had merely indicated the purpose for which Jackson's
force had been detached, and left to his judgment the manner in which
that purpose was to be achieved. Johnston had certainly suggested
that he should not expose himself to the danger of defeat. But when
it became clear that he could not retain the enemy in the Valley
unless he closed with him, to have refrained from attack would have
been to disobey the spirit of his instructions.

Again, when Jackson attacked he had good reason to believe that he
ran no risk of defeat whatever. The force before him was reported as
inferior to his own, and he might well have argued: "To confine
myself to observation will be to confess my weakness, and Banks is
not likely to arrest his march to Manassas because of the presence of
an enemy who dare not attack an insignificant rearguard."
Demonstrations, such as Johnston had advised, may undoubtedly serve a
temporary purpose, but if protracted the enemy sees through them. On
the 22nd, for instance, it was reported to Banks that the
Confederates were advancing. The rear brigade of Williams' division
was therefore countermarched from Snicker's Gap to Berryville; but
the other two were suffered to proceed. Had Jackson remained
quiescent in front of Shields, tacitly admitting his inferiority, the
rear brigade would in all probability have soon been ordered to
resume its march; and Lincoln, with no fear for Washington, would
have allowed Blenker and McDowell to join McClellan.

Johnston, at least, held that his subordinate was justified. In
publishing the thanks of the Confederate Congress tendered to Jackson
and his division, he expressed, at the same time, "his own sense of
their admirable conduct, by which they fully earned the high reward

During the evening of the 23rd the medical director of the Valley
army was ordered to collect vehicles, and send the wounded to the
rear before the troops continued their retreat. Some time after
midnight Dr. McGuire, finding that there were still a large number
awaiting removal, reported the circumstances to the general, adding
that he did not know where to get the means of transport, and that
unless some expedient were discovered the men must be abandoned.
Jackson ordered him to impress carriages in the neighbourhood. "But,"
said the surgeon, "that requires time; can you stay till it has been
done?" "Make yourself easy, sir," was the reply. "This army stays
here until the last man is removed. Before I leave them to the enemy
I will lose many men more." Fortunately, before daylight the work was


The exact losses at Kernstown were as follows:--


CONFEDERATES. Stonewall Brigade : 40 : 151 : 152 : 343. Burke's
Brigade : 24 : 114 : 39 : 177. Fulkerson's Brigade : 15 : 76 :
71 : 162. Cavalry : 1 : 17 : - : 18. Artillery
: - : 17 : 1 : 18.


2nd Virginia : 320 N.C.O. and men : 6 : 33 : 51 : 90 4th
Virginia : 203 N.C.O. and men : 5 : 23 : 48 : 76 5th Virginia :
450 N.C.O. and men : 9 : 48 : 4 : 61 27th Virginia : 170 N.C.O.
and men : 2 : 20 : 35 : 57 33rd Virginia : 275 N.C.O. and men :
18 : 27 : 14 : 59 21st Virginia : 270 officers and men : 7 : 44 :
9 : 60 42nd Virginia : 293 officers and men : 11 : 50 : 9 : 70 1st
Virginia : 187 officers and men : 6 : 20 : 21 : 47 23rd Virginia :
177 officers and men : 3 : 14 : 32 : 49 27th Virginia : 897 N.C.O.
and men : 12 : 62 : 39 : 113

Total casualties = 718: 80 killed including 5 officers. 375 wounded
including 22 officers. 263 missing including 10 officers. 13 per cent
killed and wounded. 20 per cent killed, wounded and missing.


Total casualties = 590: 118 killed including 6 officers. 450 wounded
including 27 officers. 22 missing. 6 per cent.

According to the reports of his regimental commanders, Jackson took
into battle (including 48th Virginia) 3087 N.C.O. and men of
infantry, 290 cavalry, and 27 guns. 2742 infantry, 290 cavalry, and
18 guns were engaged, and his total strength, including officers, was
probably about 3500. Shields, in his first report of the battle, put
down the strength of his own division as between 7000 and 8000 men.
Four days later he declared that it did not exceed 7000, namely 6000
infantry, 750 cavalry, and 24 guns. It is probable that only those
actually engaged are included in this estimate, for on March 17 he
reported the strength of the troops which were present at Kernstown
six days later as 8374 infantry, 608 artillerymen, and 780 cavalry;
total, 9752.* (* O.R. volume 12 part 3 page 4.)


1862. March 23.

The stars were still shining when the Confederates began their
retreat from Kernstown. With the exception of seventy, all the
wounded had been brought in, and the army followed the ambulances as
far as Woodstock.

March 25.

There was little attempt on the part of the Federals to improve their
victory. The hard fighting of the Virginians had left its impress on
the generals. Jackson's numbers were estimated at 15,000, and Banks,
who arrived in time to take direction of the pursuit, preferred to
wait till Williams' two brigades came up before he moved. He encamped
that night at Cedar Creek, eight miles from Kernstown. The next day
he reached Strasburg. The cavalry pushed on to near Woodstock, and
there, for the time being, the pursuit terminated. Shields, who
remained at Winchester to nurse his wound, sent enthusiastic
telegrams announcing that the retreat was a flight, and that the


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